Located at the heart of north-east Asia, Incheon is at the centre of South Korea’s bid to become the international business and logistics hub for the region. The port city on the western coast of Korea has an unbeatable advantage: it is only a short distance from China and Japan with their huge economies and markets of 1.5 billion people, and is only a three-and-a-half hour flight from 51 cities with populations of more than one million people. It has a new international airport, ranked third in the world in cargo volume and 10th in passenger volume, and a 120-year-old international seaport that connects to ports in China and Japan.

Its close proximity to the high-tech manufacturing complexes of Seoul metropolitan area gives Incheon access to excellent human resources, particularly in the information technology and biotechnology sectors. This was a key reason why US pharmaceutical company Vaxgen chose Incheon over Singapore as the base for its east Asia operations.

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Given its many advantages, the government designated Incheon as the country’s first free economic zone (FEZ) in August 2003. The development plan for the FEZ comprises three different areas: Songdo, Yeongjong and Cheongna, with a total area of 51,756 acres and a projected population of 500,000. Construction work commenced in October 2003 and is scheduled to be completed by 2020 at a total cost of $150bn.

FDI is starting to flow in. As of May 2006, 28 agreements have been signed worth $28bn, including investment contracts worth $15bn. Last year, the FEZ hosted the Asia and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communications Technology for Development, a United Nations affiliate, in Songdo, and a research and development (R&D) centre for General Motors Daewoo in Cheongna. This February, the FEZ signed an $11bn memorandum of understanding with Portman Holdings to construct a 151-storey twin tower and to develop two districts in the Songdo neighbourhood.

Efforts are being made to establish comfortable living conditions for foreign nationals by attracting world-class schools and hospitals. The New York Presbytarian Hospital will build and operate an international hospital in Songdo, New Songdo International, which is scheduled to open in September 2008. English-speaking services are being expanded and services such as banking, shopping, housing and administration are being improved to provide a friendly environment.

Songdo District

Spanning 13,538 acres, Songdo will be developed as an international business and cutting-edge industrial city. An international business district (IBD) is being built by New Songdo City Development LLC, a joint-venture between the Gale Company of the US and POSCO construction of Korea. The construction of a 65-storey Asia Trade Centre started in July this year, and work on building a central park, luxury hotels, an ecotarium, a residential complex and a hospital are scheduled to begin this year.

Apart from the IBD, the district will have a Techno Park housing 35 R&D centres and six research institutions, including the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology; a biotechnology complex that will have the world’s third largest biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility being set up by Celltrion, a joint venture with US company VaxGen; and an information technology cluster.

Yeongjong District

Yeongjong District, which covers 34,179 acres, including Incheon International Airport, will be the hub for air logistics. It includes a 13,888-acre international airport, a 4900-acre airport support area, the Yongyu and Muui tourism complex set in 1740 acres and the 703-acre Unbok Leisure Complex.

Once work is completed on the 12.3-kilometre Incheon Toll Bridge, which links the Yeongjong area with Songdo City and is Korea’s longest, the commute from Songdo to Incheon International Airport will be cut from one hour to 15 minutes.

Cheongna District

Visualised as an international tourism and leisure complex, Cheongna is set in 4419 acres. It will include an Asian village, international finance centre, a theme park, a golf course, a floricultural complex, and an R&D centre for GM Daewoo. Work on the complex started in July and is set to finish by 2012.

Asia’s hub

To achieve the vision of becoming the business hub for north-east Asia, the FEZ will have a high-tech communications environment, be eco-friendly with large areas for parks and green spaces, and have a world-class transportation system with various rapid transit systems. These plans will create Asia’s newest business city, rivalling Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Make it your choice as a base for your business in Asia.